Blake Dowling: Place your bets in Florida

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I just downloaded the app, and it is pretty slick.

Gambling is always a hot topic in our nation. In Florida, it has a complex history.

In 1935, slot machines and jai-alai were made legal — then promptly made illegal in 1937.

Fast-forward to 1970, while “Patton,” “Airport,” and “MASH” were ruling the box office, bingo was legalized in Florida.

Then, a massive move in 1986 when Florida voters approved the lottery.

Over the next couple of decades, various other forms of gambling legislation rolled out, starting with the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Act gave the native tribes of Florida rights to any legal gaming activities in the state. Fast-forward again to this year; the Hard Rock Hotel launched a sportsbook which is another huge move in gambling.

It’s not just a room with a giant TV set up where you can place bets and play video poker while sipping a beverage. It also has a related app.

That’s right; you can go to the app right now, open an account, and start betting on college football, MMA, Tennis, whatever you are into, legally.

I just downloaded the app, and it is pretty slick.

We have come a long way since the early days of online gambling. I had two friends (Brad and Ted) that moved to Costa Rica years ago to set up an online betting site. Or, as they call it in the business, “offshore betting sites.”

As I recall from my friends’ experience, the frenzy to set up these sites in the late 90s was a bit like a gold rush, and they returned home after not too long.

There are so many options for placing wagers; I suppose the idea of a traditional bookie is becoming a dinosaur.

You don’t think of technical innovation disrupting illegal activities, but if you think about it, why bet with someone that wants to break your leg for nonpayment when you can go online and do so.

The same goes for legal gambling destinations. Why travel to Biloxi to gamble when you can bet right in your living room (if you enjoy wagering). On the flip side, one would assume the restaurants, shows, spa, card tables, slots, and other amenities will keep people coming to the casinos.

But where will they gamble on sports? The sportsbook or by the pool on the app? I sought out an industry expert who makes his living in this world.

Meet Florida-based sports writer and handicapper Brian Edwards for his take on the landscape of ballgames and bets. Brian is the managing editor of Major Wager — Sports betting analysis and senior handicapper at

Edwards checks in with us from his coastal residence …

Blake Dowling: Brian, thank you for joining us today. Let’s talk gambling. How has technology changed the game for wagering? Are apps like the new Hard Rock app the future of betting?

Brian Edwards: Yes, more than 90% of sports wagering will be done via mobile apps in the not-too-distant future. It’s already like that in some of the states that have legalized but don’t have horse tracks or other types of betting venues. The days of walking up to the counter to place your bets and cash your tickets at sportsbooks might never go away completely, especially in places like Nevada, but it’s certainly headed in that direction. It’s all about convenience. Why would a gambler want to wait in a line and possibly not get to place a bet minutes before a game starts when he or she can get it done in a few seconds on their phone?

BD: How did you get started in your career?

BE: I knew I would get involved in sports in some capacity. My first job out of college was as a sports writer for the Marietta Daily Journal. Then I was given an opportunity (hat tip to former Tallahassee Democrat sports editor Jim Lamar) to join in March 2000. CBS SportsLine owned VI at the time. I was initially just writing for VI with the gambling angle but was given the chance to start picking games in April 2002 and have been doing so ever since.

BD: If you could bet on one sport for the rest of your life, what would that be?

BE: That would have to be college football or basketball. I’d probably lean to Saturdays in the Fall, but I love both sports.

BD: What are your top five sporting events of all time?

BE: The Uno would have to be my alma mater’s (Brian graduated from the University of Florida) 52-20 win over FSU at the Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 2 of 1997. No. 2 would be Florida’s 24-14 win over Oklahoma in Miami in early January 2009. Next, I’d have to go with UF’s win over Ohio St. to win the 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament in Atlanta. No. 4 is the Gators’ 32-29 win over undefeated and top-ranked FSU at The Swamp in 1997. That remains the greatest college football game I’ve ever been to. Finally, the first full-capacity indoor event since the start of the pandemic was UFC 261 in Jacksonville in April of this year. That show was unbelievable, and the energy from the crowd was incredible! I was in person for all five of those.

Thanks, Brian. The world of wagering will continue to evolve and change. You can follow Brian to keep up on the latest.

One thing is for sure; disruptions and lawsuits are in store for the Hard Rock in Florida. One case has already been tossed since the app launched.

For now, the app remains up and ready for your wagers. Look for more with Edwards as he joins the Biz & Tech podcast as our guest for December, and we will continue the conversation. Until then, place your bets on the Florida versus Florida State game as it will be interesting; a battle for who is the worst team in the state is upon us.

Happy early Thanksgiving week to all, and thanks for checking out the column today, as it is my privilege to bring you my column each Saturday.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies; I reached him at [email protected].

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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